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Have a way with words? Want to change the world? 100 Thousand Poets for Change is an upcoming international event that celebrates poetry and advocates social, political and environmental change.
Currently, 350 cities representing 70 counties are all planning their own public events, focusing on different topics that reflect local issues. The events will all take place at the same time on September 24 and will be documented through a blog.
AtréveteDF, the Hollaback! chapter in Mexico City, is getting involved and currently accepting poem submissions on sexual harassment and discrimination in public spaces as part of the worldwide event. They will publish these on their site and use them in public action. AtréveteDF is also partnering with the collective Contra La Violencia, El Arte (Against Violence, Art). The deadline to submit is September 5.
As I walked past a group of 3 men, probably in their 30s, they started yelling, “Hey girl”, “Hey white girl”, “hey white girl in the black dress with the nice tits”…I continued to walk past them, trying to ignore them, but one stood up and walked after me saying, “what, are you racist or something? won’t talk to a black man?” I couldn’t remain silent any more…and I responded, “No. I don’t talk to people that objectify and disrespect me.” His cronies on the bench laughed, and he held his hands up and backed off.
Normally we do not post racial identifiers on this site, as per our anti discrimination policy. Exceptions include when the relevance of race is central to the story, as is the case in this post.
I spent the last semester abroad in Morocco. I’ve experienced street harassment but never like this. I was living in the medina, or old city, with a family, and every day my walk to and from school was a total battle. I hoped eventually I would get used to it, or the men would give up. But as much as I grew over the semester, I had to realize they didn’t.
On one occasion I was walking by myself on the main avenue of the “French city”. The sidewalks were crowded, people everywhere, big wide public spaces. Out of nowhere 5 boys went by on rollerblades, ages ranging from 25 to 16. The first one grabbed my breast as he went by. I turned to scream at him and another slapped my ass. A third grabbed my breast again. I screamed and cursed every word I knew in Arabic but no one did a thing. Families simply stared at the white girl causing a scene. The worst part was I was about a block away from a police station.
The actual groping was not an every day occurrence, but it was clear men knew about it. Any boy on a bike would swerve towards you and turn away at the last second with a terrible smile on his face as if to tell you, “I could if I wanted to.”
And the guys on my program never fully got it. They’d say it’s a big deal in the states too, or act as if it wasn’t a huge deal. Or give you tips on how to avoid it as if they know anything about how to deal with it. There is nothing a girl can do that should ever make that okay. It does not matter what she wears, how she holds her head, what words she screams after the fact. It just shouldn’t happen.
Towards the end my boyfriend came to visit. Suddenly, I could walk down the same streets with him and never hear a thing. It made me mad. The second he walked away, it would start up again. The men had no respect for me as a person, simply for my boyfriend and what apparently belonged to him.
In the end, we couldn’t hold back anymore and the girls on my program began verbally confronting men who would harass us. They always seemed in total shock that we didn’t like it. Apparently having someone violate your personal space and whisper obscenities in your ear without your choice is welcoming. I do believe a lot of them meant it without harm, but their willingness to let the cat-calling and following and pestering slide meant it was so much easier for those men who did mean harm to get away with it.
I live close to my workplace and I always like to take a walk to and from it to save gas and get exercise. While I was walking to work early one morning, a man stuck his head out of his vehicle as he drove by and yelled out an indiscernible comment. I thought nothing of it at first since I live on a main street in a city with many people. However, this man drove by me four more times, each time yelling something. The last two times he drove by, he swerved to the side of the road that I was walking on and asked me if I would like to go for a ride with him. The first time he asked me I replied, “No thank you, I am fine with walking.” The second time I told him if he didn’t leave me alone that I would call the Police. I took out my phone to get ready to call and walked briskly away and he finally drove away for the last time. I live close to where prostitutes work but that does not merit his disrespectful behavior. Some perverts just need to know when to quit and leave girls alone.
I used to love to run on the Greenline Trail near where I lived in Memphis. The only creepy thing was that it wound right alongside the county jail. On this particular day, not many people were out on the trail, and as I ran by the jail, I was completely alone. Out of the blue, I heard a voice coming from the jail: “Hey girl! I see you! Hey! I see you gettin’ right for the summer! Yeah, you! I see you! Hey girl!” I tried so hard to ignore the faceless voice, but all I wanted to do was scream “Shut the hell up!” I couldn’t manage to respond at all, and I was so creeped out by this, I never ran that way again. Inappropriate.
I was out with my boyfriend and a couple of his friends at local ski resort bar in Blue Mountain. We were dancing and have a great time, when some brute of a guy walked past me and slapped my butt extremely hard. I turned around and screamed, “don’t fucking touch me!” At this point my boyfriend clued in, grabbed an empty beer bottle and raised it towards the offending individual. (I realized this may not have been the right move, but hell, it got the point across) What the guy said next actually blew my mind, “hey man, I’m just looking to have a good time, no offense.” He apologized to my boyfriend, not me, as if I was HIS property. My boyfriend then told him to apologize to me and probably yelled some other obscenities his way before the guy ran off with his tail between his legs. I was fuming the entire night, to know that some guy thought he could use my butt, a complete stranger’s butt, as his enjoyment for the night. I’m glad he was thoroughly made a fool of.
I have accepted that public transportation in my city is less than ideal, but my job is good and I don’t have a car, so I deal with it.
On the way home, I noticed a guy injecting what I hope was insulin into his belly with a large syringe. He was doing it with some difficulty and the syringe was waving around. I was horrified that he had a needle on the bus and couldn’t take my eyes off it. He took this to mean that I found him irresistible. He handed me a slip of paper with his name and phone number on it and said,”call me sometime.” I nodded and slipped it in my bag, not knowing what to do.
A few stops later, he sat in the seat next to mine, asked what time it was, and touched the arm closest to him when I answered. As a person who needed my front of the bus seat more than I did got on the bus, I moved back a bit and sat next to a small girl, but the guy didn’t let up. I got off the bus at my stop and noticed he did as well. He followed me halfway down the block toward my house, not riding his bike quickly, just fast enough to keep up with my gait. He finally got bored and turned around and left, but I was shaken the rest of the way home. Does being a woman mean I have to put up with that kind of s— just by taking the bus?
I was walking with my brother who had come from out of town to help me move into a new place in a new neighborhood. As we were walking, someone yelled to him out of their car “hey, your girl has a nice ass” I was really embarrassed, but my brother yelled back “she’s my sister” The driver then yelled “calm down, I’m just complimenting you both!”
When my brother told the story to our friends when we went out that night, everyone thought it was funny and his wife even said “that’s cute” but I was so embarrassed, even by the re-telling.
Ladies, not even your job is a safe zone from harassment. Today I was re-setting a shelf for some new products and a man came up to me and asked me if I worked there, where a product was, the normal stuff I hear every day. Later on I was at the register and he came through my line. He asked my name (I gave a fake one), how old I was, and how much I knew about tools. Then he grabbed himself and said, “I got a big tool and I wanna use it on you, sweet thing” while licking his lips. I told him straight out to leave me the f*ck alone, called for a backup cashier and closed my line, forcing a male coworker to take care of him. Afterward I told my manager, and he said he doubted the guy really said that and that even if he did, he is a customer and “customers are where we get our paychecks.” My job cares more about profit than their employees feeling safe and comfortable. So I walked out and quit. I have a second job to fall back on anyway.
Several years ago, I only had a bike to get to and from my job. The ride was five miles each way, and in no time at all, I was in pretty good shape.
One afternoon, after finishing my shift, I had just crossed an incredibly busy intersection and was coasting down the sidewalk when out of nowhere, these guys started catcalling me. I don’t remember exactly how many there where, but they were saying things along the lines of “Yeah baby! Looking good!”
Tired, cranky and now pissed off, I slammed my brakes on, located the direction of the catcalls (a dark green pickup about fifteen feet away from me), and in front of the entire waiting line of traffic, I flipped the guys off with both hands, screaming at the top of my lungs “DON’T EVER CALL ME THAT AGAIN!”
Not waiting for their response, I got back on my bike and pedaled home.
When I related the story to my mother later that night, she expressed her disappointment in my “unladylike” behavior and that the guys were only “trying to compliment” me.
That night, I wasn’t sure who I was more upset with: the truck full of guys who catcalled me or the mom who didn’t seem to understand that I was defending myself against street harassment.